After spending my adolescence in a dance studio I had itchy feet to get out of my hometown and experience something new. Motivated by fierce wanderlust and a love for dance, I asked myself:
“How can I dance and see the world?”
I discovered some graduated dancers at my studio had gone on to perform aboard cruise ships. The answer was clear. I had to have this globe-trotting job.
I arrived at my first cruise ship dancer audition with a bare resume and a homemade headshot. I had only my training and a few recital performances under my belt. I remember dancing with all of my energy for the casting directors—kicking high and throwing myself off balance, and winding up my pirouette in a novice effort to impress.
Needless to say, that was not the day I booked my first cruise ship.
But after many more cruise ship auditions spent watching, observing, dancing and learning—I finally found myself with a contract in hand. I was headed out to sea to perform aboard ships sailing to Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, and more.
Though I was still young and inexperienced onstage, I learned fast upon arriving at rehearsals. I dove into learning five shows over the course of six weeks. I thought my brain might explode from agonizing over retaining hours worth of choreography.
But something incredible happened. I did remember my choreography. And I went on to perform with cruise ships for the next three years, growing smarter, stronger, and more professional with each contract.
Here’s why that cruise ship contract was one of the smartest moves for me at the beginning of my career, and why it turned out to be a great opportunity for me to grow.
Opportunity to Hone and Practice
I was not brand new to the stage when I accepted my first cruise ship contract, but I still had a lot to learn. Once onboard, I quickly became familiar with performing. I had no choice—I was onstage over four times a week! Keeping this routine over a six-month contract got me comfortable with the stage. I soon found my pre-show rituals, warm-ups, and quick-change short-cuts to help me perform consistently and efficiently. I used the opportunity to hone my practice, perfect my art, and maintain my technique.
Opportunity to Learn Multiple Styles
I will be the first to admit that I was the “bun-head” at auditions. With a heavy foundation in classical ballet, I was insecure in styles of dance that made me flex my feet or dance parallel. Luckily my technique has never left me, but I’ve gained versatility in movement as a result of performing styles from folk, to jazz, to contemporary and even ballroom. Learning a package of cruise ships shows expanded my repertoire and made me a versatile dancer.
Opportunity to Work As A Team
As a cruise ship performer not only was I a part of a cast, I was part of something bigger. The cast is a division of the ship’s whole entertainment team, which can include anything from jugglers, divers, ice-skaters, musicians, hosts, DJ’s, and aerialists. Delivering a high-quality product to passengers is a group effort made possible by support and teamwork. I did not learn these workplace skills in school, they were a result of the job.
Opportunity to Network
As part of the entertainment department onboard, I had the opportunity to meet and work with performers of all types. From visiting guest entertainers to my very own cast members, cruise ships are full of opportunities to network in the industry. For example, a former cruise ship cast mate of mine is now running her own casting agency while dancing on the West End. Another cruise ship friend is producing his own shows that perform worldwide. I never would’ve thought I’d know people achieving such things, and I am so glad I do! They continue to be an inspiration and forever-friends.
Opportunity to Save Money
Beyond all of cruise ship’s performing perks, I also got to pocket my paycheck. I was getting paid to:
• become a better performer
• work as a team
• learn new styles
• And expand my industry network.
I also got to travel and see the world, my dream from the start. I’ve used my cruise ship money to support myself in the moments in-between jobs.
Dancing and performing aboard cruise ships was an excellent opportunity for me. The auditions alone were worth attending, just to practice versatility and learn from my peers. I recommend any young, aspiring dancer to seek out a cruise ship audition, or a veteran cruise ship performer to learn from and inspire you as you step out into your career.
Kelsey is a classically trained dancer and Actor’s Equity performer. She has performed for companies such as Central Florida Ballet, Tokyo Disney, Walt Disney World, Universal Studios, and at sea with leading luxury cruise lines. A dancer by day and a writer by night, when Kelsey is not performing she shares her love of dance, travel, and finding a good cup of coffee on her blog Wend Away Travels. Find her full performance bio and show gallery at www.kelseyannglennon.com.
Kick up your heels and let's dance!
Broadway Dance Dreams